US Vice President Joe Biden, throwing punches as a warrior for the middle class, plunged into the 2012 election race Thursday, hailing President Barack Obama as a man with “steel in his spine.”
Obama meanwhile launched his own political barbs, mocking Republicans who oppose his energy plans as “naysayers” on a day his reelection campaign stepped up a notch with the release of a laudatory documentary on his presidency.
Biden praised Obama for rescuing US auto companies with an unpopular $80 billion bailout opposed by many Republicans, but which has nursed America’s iconic industry back to health.
And standing before union workers in the crucial swing state of Ohio, he personally slammed leading Republican candidate Mitt Romney for writing a 2008 New York Times article headlined “Let Detroit go bankrupt.”
“But the guy I work with, every day, the president, didn’t flinch. This is a man with steel in his spine,” Biden said, saying Obama rescued the American auto sector even though it was unpopular.
“He wasn’t going to give up on a million jobs, and the iconic industry America invented. At least he wasn’t going to give it up without a fight.
“He made the tough call, and the verdict is in, President Obama is right and they were dead wrong.”
Biden named all three remaining Republican candidates, Romney, Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum in his speech, promoting himself and Obama as fighters for a middle class struggling in an economy weighted against them.
“If you give any one of these guys the keys to the White House, they will bankrupt the middle class again,” Biden said.
“The president and I have a fundamental commitment to dealing the middle class back in to the American economy that they have been dealt out of so long. And ultimately that’s what this election is all about. It’s about a choice.
“A choice between a system that is rigged and a system that is fair.
“It’s a stark choice. To my mind it’s not even a close call.”
Biden, with an emotive stump style peppered with personal anecdotes appealing to blue collar voters, is seen as an effective advocate for Obama, and may connect with those sectors of the electorate that the president struggles to reach.
Obama motorcaded to a community college in suburban Maryland in a speech ostensibly about energy policy, but which was in reality a counter attack to Republican assaults on his strategy to meet rising gasoline prices.
In his most sarcastic and cutting campaign mode, Obama slammed his rivals as “naysayers” who were stuck in the past, doubling down on his energy policy despite claims from Republican candidates that it is a miserable failure.
He did not name specific candidates — referring to “folks running for a certain office” but it was clear who he was targeting.
Obama strongly defended his plans to make America a leader in new energy sources like biofuels, and wind power and solar power, and rebuked Republicans for opposing his plans to cut subsidies to profit cranking oil producers.
“If some of these folks were around when Columbus set sail… they would not have believed that the world was round,” he said, at a Community College in the Maryland suburbs outside Washington DC.
The campaign’s new intensity comes at a moment of sharp volatility in American politics, with Obama’s approval rating lurching up and down in several polls, partly influenced by rising gasoline prices.
Senior Obama administration officials dismissed a New York Times/CBS poll this week which put Obama’s job approval rating at 41 percent, down from 50 percent a month ago.
But they concede that Obama will face a tough fight in November, in a country that is split down the middle ideologically and believe the outcome could rest on the state of the economy.
Obama’s campaign was Thursday to release the full version of the documentary about his first three years in power “The Road We’ve Traveled”, narrated by Academy Award winning Hollywood star Tom Hanks, who endorsed him in 2008.
Trailers of the movie show popular former president Bill Clinton praising Obama for ordering the raid that killed Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden and administration figures lionizing the president for his economic policy.
The president was meanwhile set to spend the whole day on Friday at fundraisers to swell his campaign account, in his hometown of Chicago and in Atlanta, Georgia.
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